Yang Kaiheng, owner of The Real Singapore news website, pled guilty to six counts of sedition on June 24, 2016, according to news reports. Yang had maintained his innocence at the outset of the seven day trial, but changed his plea halfway through the proceedings, news reports said.
District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt found that Yang allowed articles with “xenophobic and racist feelings” to be published on the site and on June 28 sentenced him to eight months in prison for sedition, reports said.
Fatt ruled that while Yang was not the author of the four articles in question he had “full control” of the site, which the judge characterized as Yang’s “brainchild.” He ruled the website exploited nationalistic feelings “purely for financial gain and not for noble ideologies, misguided or otherwise.”
One of the articles in question identified a Filipino family as having stoked violence during a Hindu religious ceremony, according to news reports. Another report alleged that a Chinese woman had encouraged her grandson to urinate in a bottle while traveling on Singaporean public transport, reportssaid. Yang was also convicted for uploading what the presiding judge deemed a seditious Facebook post and for failing to hand over documents to investigating police.
The website published mainly crowd-sourced articles that appeared on the site without much editorial control, the reports said. The news website was the first to have its license revoked by a state media regulatory board formed under regulations introduced for online media in 2013, according to CPJ research.
Yang began serving his prison term on July 6, according to reports. He was being held at the island state’s Changi prison, reports said.